How to know if your kids are ready to stay home alone

2 Jun

smiling girls playing in house made of blankets at bedroomWith summer coming up how do you know if your kids are ready to be left home alone? And how do you know if it’s legal or not?

Unfortunately, there is no clear cut law for the age across Canada – but there are some great recommendations from the Canada Safety Council. And lots of things to check for to make your decision.

For kids ages 10-12 years old, they recommend less than two hours alone. Great if you need to run a quick errand, visit with a neighbour etc.

Ages 13 to 14 they recommend up to 5 hours. But of course for these there has to be someone they can quickly reach if anything goes wrong.  I think doing test runs before is a great idea too. Start small – go for a walk and try leaving them. See how it goes, for them and for you.

Everyone knows their child best, and it’s definitely something that needs to be discussed. Does your child even feel comfortable being home alone? Do they know what to do if someone comes to the door, the phone rings, what will they be allowed to eat while alone etc.  A lot of ground to cover, and it’s different for every family. Can they reach you by cell phone while you’re out? Do they have to stay indoors the whole time, are they allowed to go outside to play? Is there a neighbour they can go to if something comes up, or even if they just get a bit scared?

I think a big fear for parents after the fiasco in Winnipeg with a neighbour reporting kids playing in a fenced in yard while Mom was inside – will someone phone and report this? It has really taken away that community feeling knowing it just takes one call, even if you’re home.

As a parent I think it’s pretty easy to tell based on the child – can they keep themselves busy, do they try to get into things they shouldn’t be, do they get easily frightened or anxious when left alone.

It’s a great time to start thinking of this if your kids are near those ages – instead of dragging them out on errands or outings, they might be ready to stay home sometimes. At least have that option open to the parents and the child.

What key things do you think have to be in place for a child to be ready to be home alone? What age would you consider doing this and for how long?

And do you think there needs to be a clear cut age for all of Canada for when kids are allowed to be home alone? What age were you first left home alone, and how did it go for you?


7 Replies to “How to know if your kids are ready to stay home alone

  1. Nadine is right, I have just recent extensively researched this and the wording is exactly right, “Supervison in place” which could mean: neighbours, access to emergency phone, previous courses such as “home alone” etc. Ultimately one child could be left alone for a short period of time where as a child of the same age may not, it all depends on the child.

  2. I do really like your other suggestions for determining readiness though, it can’t only be about age, once they are legally old enough it has to be about maturity, safety and readiness too.

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